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The Litigation Consulting Report

Why the Color of a Dress Matters to Litigators and Litigation Graphics

Posted by Ryan Flax on Fri, Feb 27, 2015 @ 11:20 AM

color-litigation-graphics-litigators-dress-blue-goldby Ryan H. Flax
(Former) Managing Director of Litigation Consulting
A2L Consulting

Today, the internet is abuzz over what color this dress is:

The online debate was whether the dress is white and gold or blue and black. There is a right answer, by the way, and I’ll get to that below.

The debate has raged for hours and hours and has been widely, globally reported (at, e.g., NBC Today, CNN, NPR, BuzzFeed, Independent (UK), Reddit, and hundreds of other places) – just search “what color is the dress” on Google right now if you haven’t yet heard of this dress.

Celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Kim and Kanye, Taylor Swift, and Matt Lauer have all weighed in. BuzzFeed.com alone has reported over 21 Million views of this dress. Wired.com has even gone to the length of engaging an expert to analyze the image and assign real color values to the dress’s various parts – who said it is blue and black. Even after this expert photo analysis and knowing of it, NPR’s David Greene still swore it was white and gold and told Renee Montagne she was “wrong” for believing it to be blue and black.

I’ve been staring at the photo above for many, many minutes now and I must admit that I see it as pale blue with gold stripy-trim. I’m crazy (holy cow – before I got to the end of writing this article I looked back at the photo above and see it as blue and black now!).

So, why does this matter to you as a litigator?

It matters because THERE IS A CORRECT ANSWER HERE, but millions of people seeing actual, real evidence (the photo above) have divergent and strongly held opinions on the issue and are willing to take time out of their day to argue it. NPR’s David Greene told his coworker she was wrong about it. Folks on Gawker are insulting one another in comments debating the issue. These people are your potential jurors, and this blip on the internet’s timeline shows you that sometimes the facts are less important than perception and impression.

color-trial-graphics-litigators-dress-blue-gold-whiteI’m sure you can imagine a jury arguing over what is and what is not “reasonable” or whether a patent’s claim limitation is infringed by some plastic, flexible component of an accused windshield wiper blade product in a similar fashion to the folks on Gawker.com arguing with one another over a dress’s hue. This dress shows how scary this reality can be when your client’s case, life, company, and/or money is on the line.

Well guess what – here’s a photo of the dress in a different light:

It’s pretty clear now, isn’t it, that the dress really is blue and black. How can there be any debate?

What is this photo to the right? Is it actual evidence of the color of the dress above, the one the whole world is consumed with? No, it is not.

what-color-is-the-dress-litigation-graphics-litigators-dress-blue-gold-whiteWhat we have here in the photo to the right is demonstrative evidence. We are using it to illustrate that a similar dress, from the same company, designed in the same way as our dress-at-issue, but photographed differently, shows our dress’s actual colors. Here, it’s the only “proof” we’ll get, and this shows the critical impact demonstrative evidence (litigation graphics, scale models, animations, etc.) can have on an audience you’re trying to persuade.

Whether this is real evidence or demonstrative evidence matters not to jurors according to the top jury researcher in the country (Dr. Laurie Kuslansky). Jurors simply don’t distinguish between actual evidence and what you show in litigation graphics to demonstrate your points – it’s all just “evidence” to them.

Are you now convinced that the real dress is blue and black? I am (however, I just looked at the real dress photo one more time and it looks blue and gold to me again).

Other A2L Consulting articles related to litigation graphics, color theory and persuasion during opening statements:

Maximize Persuasion During Opening Statements

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Demonstrative Evidence, Juries, Psychology, Color Theory, Persuasive Graphics, Visual Persuasion, Opening

Our Top 20 Litigation Articles of All Time - Download in a Free Book

Posted by Ken Lopez on Tue, Jun 18, 2013 @ 10:00 AM

top 200 litigation consulting articlesby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

We are very proud to have achieved a milestone and to be able to share it with our readers. In 2011, we launched our popular litigation-focused blog, The Litigation Consulting Report, and we recently published our 200th article for the blog.

In that time, tens of thousands of different people in the legal industry – partners in major law firms, in-house counsel, consultants, expert witnesses, graphic designers, and many others – have turned to the blog for interesting stories about real trials, for the latest research on what works and what doesn’t, for insights into jury psychology, and for good advice on trial techniques. I’m thrilled that the blog has been so well received. There are very few blogs like it on the Internet, if any.

To celebrate, we are releasing this e-book of the top 20 articles as judged by the readership of the articles over the past two years. You will notice that the topics are wide-ranging but generally fall into our three key areas of expertise: Trial Consulting, Litigation Graphics and Courtroom Technology.

We haven’t been afraid to challenge conventional wisdom about presenting information at trial, and I’m not surprised that among the top 20 articles are those that say that PowerPoint is often significantly misused by trial lawyers, that other presentation software is often preferable, and that bullet points are usually not a good way to get your ideas across.

To be honest, the identity of the most-read article (The Top 50 Twitter Accounts for Litigators) is a surprise to me, but I suppose it reflects the growing use of social media to disseminate valuable content. After all, a great many of you probably found this book, or at least some of its constituent parts, on Twitter.

Other popular blog posts are less surprising and indeed encouraging like storytelling in the courtroom, the meaning of color, the best practices for mock trials, and problems in the use of demonstrative evidence.

I hope that you enjoy this book and take real value from it. I would sincerely welcome your feedback.  If you are not a subscriber of our blog, please become one by clicking here.

Click the image below to download the free top 20 book or click here.   

a2l litigation consultants top 20 articles  

. . . or, tweet or read individual articles below:

20. 5 Demonstrative Evidence Tricks and Cheats to Watch Out For

19. Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) & Lobbying/Advocacy Graphics

18. Storytelling Proven Effective in Apple v. Samsung Patent Graphics

17. 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said

16. Litigation Graphics, Psychology and Color Meaning

15. 20 Great Storytelling for Lawyers Articles from Trial Experts

14. The Top 14 Testimony Tips for Litigators and Expert Witnesses

13. 10 Videos to Help Litigators Become Better Courtroom Storytellers

12. Trial Graphics, Color Choice, Color Meaning & Culture

11. 16 Trial Presentation Tips You Can Learn From Hollywood

10. 5 Keys to Telling a Compelling Trial Story in the Courtroom

9. 10 Outstanding YouTube Channels for Litigators & Litigation Support

8. The Top 14 Blogs for Litigators and Litigation Support Pros

7. Beyond PowerPoint: Trial Presentations with Prezi and Keynote

6. The Top 5 Trial Timeline Tips

5. The 12 WORST PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators (and most people) Make

4. Lists of Analogies, Metaphors & Idioms for Lawyers

3. 12 Reasons Bullet Points are Bad in Trial Graphics (or in any presentation)

2. Demonstrative Evidence Storytelling Lessons from Apple v. Samsung

1. The 50 Best Twitter Accounts to Follow for Lawyers, Litigators & Lit Support

Download Free E-Book Leadership for Lawyers



Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Jury Consulting, Mock Trial, Demonstrative Evidence, Storytelling, Color Theory, Bullet Points, Social Media, Expert Witness

[Download New E-Book] Using Litigation Graphics to Persuade

Posted by Ken Lopez on Mon, May 13, 2013 @ 09:30 AM

litigation graphics trial graphics persuasion ebook a2l consultingby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

We at A2L Consulting have just published a new, completely free, e-book that anyone who’s interested in trials and litigation should have. No more comprehensive volume on litigation graphics exists, at any price.

In 74 articles and 219 pages, we show that there was a good reason A2L was voted the number one litigation graphics firm in the United States in a survey of 5,000 legal industry experts in the National Law Journal this year.

The book represents our best practices – lessons we have learned from 18 years of consulting on litigation graphics with the nation's best litigators in thousands of cases. We're a unique firm that combines Ph.D. social scientists, litigators, attorneys, information designers and courtroom technologists. 

After all, litigation graphics is at the heart of what we do here. Many people refer to litigation graphics by other names such as trial graphics, demonstrative evidence, trial exhibits, courtroom graphics, courtroom animations, or even scale models. Together, they represent a visual medium that, according to the latest scientific studies, is virtually required for litigators who are in front of judges and juries. That’s because of the way people learn: Only a minority of human beings learn primarily from persuasive verbal arguments. More people learn through what they see.

In addition, most people tend to focus on the use of litigation graphics in trials. And they certainly are used in trials before juries and judges. What some people may not realize is that despite the common name “trial graphics,” this technique is used in dozens of other contexts as well – in motions, briefs, pretrial hearings, lobbying presentations to government officials, settlement discussions, pre-indictment meetings, and others.

So we have just put together our latest e-book, entitled “Using & Creating Litigation Graphics to Persuade.”  This book pulls together A2L Consulting's best articles on litigation graphics. We cover a wide variety of legal subject areas including patent litigation graphics, antitrust litigation graphics, labor litigation graphics, environmental litigation graphics and much more.

The e-book is recommended for anyone who wants to know how litigation graphics really work. It features such topics as “Litigation Graphics, Psychology and Color Meaning,” “Information Design and Litigation Graphics,” “Seven Ways to Prepare Trial Graphics Early & Manage Your Budget,” “Why Patent Trial Graphics Matter -- And Not Just for Confused Jurors,” “Top Five Trial Timeline Tips,” “Antitrust Litigation Graphics: Monopoly Power and Price Fixing,” “Trademark Litigation Graphics: Making Your Best Visual Case,” “Legal Animation: Learn About the Four Types Used in the Courtroom,” and “Using Scale Models as Demonstrative Evidence – A Winning Trial Tactic.”

Read this book, and you will be well on your journey to becoming a litigation graphics professional, or at least to understanding how litigation graphics professionals do their jobs.

Enjoy the book, write me to offer feedback and by all means let me know if you have any questions about a case you are involved with. I'd be happy to speak with you.

Download Using & Creating Litigation Graphics to Persuade now.

using litigation graphics courtroom to persuade trial graphics a2l consulting  

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Courtroom Presentations, Trial Consulting, E-Book, Demonstrative Evidence, Animation, Patent Litigation, Presentation Graphics, Color Theory

Litigation Graphics, Psychology and Color Meaning

Posted by Ryan Flax on Tue, Apr 30, 2013 @ 06:00 AM

litigation graphics pyschology color meaningby Ryan H. Flax, Esq.
(Former) Managing Director, Litigation Consulting
A2L Consulting

As a litigation consultant, one of my primary responsibilities is to help litigation teams develop and effectively use demonstrative evidence to support their trial presentation. The primary means of doing this is to create litigation graphics, which are most commonly used as PowerPoint slides that accompany oral argument and witness testimony.

A lot of what goes into creating effective litigation graphics relies on the evidence to be presented. If the evidence relies on a document and, specifically, on a particular part of that document, a document callout is standard fare. If damages are the issue, it’s not uncommon to use a chart or table to illustrate to the jury how they should add up the money to arrive at the desired result. However, a lot more goes into designing and developing really effective litigation graphics than the clever manipulation of evidence. Did you know that color plays a major role?

Download Free E-Book Leadership for Lawyers

Litigation graphics are almost never black and white – they almost always involve the use of color. Most colors carry psychological (and even physiological), cultural, personal, emotional, and expressive implications that can impact how persuasive you are when using them.  Here’s an example:

president george bush trust color exampleLooking at the two photos of President Bush above, minus any personal political views you may have, which president is more trustworthy looking?  I bet you said the one on the right.  Do you know why?

In modern, holistic medicine, chromotherapy is used to heal with color. This form of treatment dates back millennia to ancient Egypt, China, and India. A more prominent use of color therapy occurs in environmental design, which considers the effect of color on health and behavior and develops interior design, architecture, and landscape design accordingly.  An interesting example is use of the color Baker-Miller Pink (R:255, G:145, B:175), affectionately known as “drunk tank pink” because it is commonly used in jails to keep violent prisoners calm.

mcclandless colors in culture color wheel color meaningHuman responses to color are not just biological, but are also influenced by our culture (in China the color yellow symbolizes royalty, but in Europe it’s purple that plays this role). David McCandless created this amazing color wheel (right) to illustrate how different cultures interpret colors (or “colours,” as Mr. McCandless is an author and designer from the U.K.).  People (and by people, I mean jurors and judges) also respond to colors in individual ways. Although research reveals variables that help explain human responses to color, it is also true that is our own color preferences are important to us and partially dictate the effect color has on us.

pink floyd the wall color meaningColor also causes emotional effects, which depend partly on the color’s surroundings and partly on the ideas expressed by the work as a whole.  There are two opposing ways to use color in graphics (as in art): local and expressive color.  At one extreme is local color, which is the color that something appears when viewed under average lighting conditions, e.g., a banana is yellow. At the other extreme is expressionistic color, where artists use color to express an emotional rather than a visual truth.  Just look at the famous art from Pink Floyd’s The Wall here – the use of dark blue, gray and black in the background convey an intense feeling of sadness and depression, while the blacks and reds of the figure convey danger and anguish.  Both of these color concepts effect a viewer’s emotions. The expressionistic use of color is very important in the field of litigation graphics.


Jurors (and judges to an extent, as human beings) make decisions at trial based on their emotions above all else (download and read this paper on the subject by Todd E. Pettys, Associate Dean at the University of Iowa College of Law).  Concepts like confirmation bias and research on decision making support this.  Two thousand years ago, Aristotle observed that the most persuasive arguments are those that appeal, at least in part, to the audience’s emotions (Aristotle, On Rhetoric: A Theory of Civic Discourse 112-13 (George A. Kennedy trans. Oxford Univ. Press 2d ed. 2007). 

Traditional artists have used color to evoke emotion in specific ways:

Red – heat, passion, danger, optimism

Yellow – warmth, caution, fear, cowardice

Blue – responsibility, trustworthiness, compassion, honesty, integrity, morality, coolness, quality

Orange – confidence, creativity, fun, socialness

Green – natural, healthy, harmony, cheer, friendliness, immaturity

Purple – regality, intelligence, wealth, sophistication, rank, shock

Gray – neutrality, ambiguity, dullness, somberness

Black – evil, unknown, treachery, depression, undesirability, danger, falsity

White – innocence, purity, fairness, conservatism, harmlessness, transparency

Pink – femininity, sweetness, liberalism

Brown – natural, solid, sadness

These same principles are applied today in information graphics and the graphic arts.  For example, according to Mr. McCandless’s color wheel (above and at link), the color black represents and connotes authority, the color blue intelligence and rationality, and purple virtue – interestingly, he indicates no culturally based color in Western culture for wisdom or trust.

Did you ever notice how many law firm logos are blue?  Why do you think that’s the case?

Here’s an exemplary litigation graphic that might be used by an expert witness using the above-discussed color principles to evoke a sense that the expert is honest, unbiased, and intelligent: 

color meaning color theory litigation graphics trial graphicsIt may look simple, but a lot of thought went into its design. The overall color palate of blue, purple, and gray is intended to evoke trust and neutrality.  Furthermore, the light blue color used in the text boxes is intended to again express that they are relaying true information.  The accompanying icons (the check and x-marks) are similarly colored so as to relay that the top statement of opinion is trustworthy (blue) and that the second two are warnings (red) for jurors that they should not believe what they heard from the opposition’s expert witness.

If you want to be more persuasive at your next trial or hearing, let us worry about these details to help you be your best.

Here are some other articles related to litigation graphics that you may find helpful:

complex civil litigation guidebook a2l consulting

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Demonstrative Evidence, Psychology, Color Theory

Trial Exhibits: Using the Document Call-Out to Persuade

Posted by Ken Lopez on Sat, Feb 19, 2011 @ 09:15 PM

Whether a $5 million trial or litigation involving hundreds of billions of dollars, Animators at Law almost always uses document call-out trial exhibits as part of its trial presentation.  They are a time-tested and effective tool for highlight key portions of a document in evidence.  Sometimes these call-outs are done on-the-fly in Trial Director by our on-site trial technicians and sometimes these are created using PowerPoint.

Regardless of the tool used, care should be taken to consider the most persuasive design for the point a litigator is trying to make.  All too often, stock designs that simply highlight black text in electronic yellow highlighter or faux torn paper tear-outs are used to emphasize key text.  Sometimes these approaches are adequate.  Other times, you are missing out on a key opportunity to persuade.

Animators at Law was hired by The U.S. Department of Justice to produce a group of trial exhibits to defend against injury claims in a rescue helicopter landing.  One key case theme required us to emphasize that it was the duty of the hospital to stop traffic rather than anyone on the helicopter or at air traffic control.  To make this point, we arranged the key call-out language inside a stop sign shape.  When combined with emphasis by the litigator, I believe the message of "STOP" was unforgettable.

trial exhibit stop sign

Litigator Jury Communication Gaps Solved With Trial Graphics

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Juries, Color Theory, Trial Director, Document Call-Outs, Information Design

Trial Graphics, Color Choice and Culture

Posted by Ken Lopez on Mon, Feb 7, 2011 @ 02:49 PM

Below is an article authored by a Senior Litigation Graphics Consultant at A2L Consulting.  It is set for publication in PLI's Trial by Jury book.  I think it does a great job of introducing the challenge of balancing color choice and culture in trial graphics.


Color Choice, Culture and Demonstrative Evidence

-Theresa D’Amico Villanueva, Esq.

About the Author:Theresa D’Amico Villanueva is a Senior Litigation Consultant for A2L Consulting, an attorney owned and operated provider of litigation consulting, graphics and courtroom animations, and litigation technology for litigators from all of the world’s largest law firms.  Prior to her tenure as a litigation consultant, Ms. Villanueva worked as an attorney focusing on discovery for MDL and international products liability and toxic tort matters, and as in-house counsel handling title insurance claims, settlements and compliance with multi-state regulations.   Ms. Villanueva holds a B.S. in Textiles and Apparel Merchandising and Design, with a business minor from West Virginia University.  She received her Juris Doctor from Capital University Law School, where she was awarded Order of the Barrister.  She is a member of the Pennsylvania Bar. For further information, please contact Ms. Villanueva at 800.337.7697 x 115 or via email at: villanueva@A2LC.com

It is long established that the use of visuals and technology in the courtroom increases understanding and retention.  There are many attorneys across the country who will not even consider going to trial without being armed with creative and intuitive demonstrative exhibits to persuade and educate the jury.  Color is a fundamental component of creating and developing trial graphics.   

Many litigators, however, still use conventional color schemes in their demonstratives.  Their reluctance to change is likely because at some point the conventional wisdom became using a blue background with yellow text.  Although this color scheme does work, it is no longer enough.  Like an antibiotic, if it is overused, it loses its effectiveness.

Conventional wisdom incorrectly suggests blue and yellow as an ideal trial exhibit color scheme.

Similarly, this color scheme has lost its impact. As jury pools diversify, and as jurors become more sophisticated, they expect more from us.  In turn, we need to become more creative if we intend to persuade our audience.  We need to make our graphics relevant to those whom we are trying to persuade. We must truly consider our audience, who they are, where they live, and the environmental and cultural factors that influence their behavior, attitudes, and perceptions.  

Color is powerful.  Studies show that color can evoke certain emotional responses: it can increase learning, grab our attention, and increase perception and focus.  The right color choice, used in the right way, can influence and tilt the case in your favor.

Download free white paper on litigator-juries communications

The Audience 
Many label Edward Tufte as the “Galileo of Graphics” and the “Leonardo da Vinci of Data.”  His writings on graphics and presenting are among—if not the—most prominent of our day in regard to communicating visually to an audience. While his works do not directly relate to courtroom presentation, his ideas and theory of how to appeal to an audience are highly regarded; the underlying theme of his ideas is directly applicable to litigation presentations.   

According to Tufte, “The most important rule of speaking is to respect your audience.”  This is certainly true when addressing a jury.  Tufte argues that advocates should communicate with an audience in a clear and organized way: “Presentations largely stand or fall on the quality, relevance, and integrity of the content.”   Organizing a case’s information and specifics in a clear way is not always an easy task.  Furthermore, advocates also face the challenge of communicating in a way that will entice and intrigue our audience so as to keep their attention.  There is a limited amount of time that we have the undivided attention of the jurors to present the facts.  We need to use that time wisely and in a way that will keep the attention of our audience.  

Jurors today have high expectations when walking into a courtroom.  Despite a jury’s expectation of technology and graphics to keep their attention, cluttering the screen with colorful—but ultimately not meaningful—graphics will likely alienate the jury.  Whether verbal or visual, useless information is more likely to disengage the audience than it is to draw them in.  In fact, too much information can detract from the message at hand.  Once you have lost the attention of the jury, it is difficult to regain it; vital information is lost.  Tufte advocates a direct presentation where the visuals supplement, rather than dominate, the presentation.  Bright and even animated words on the page are not automatically relevant.  Rather, a presentation is persuasive when it contains succinct and understandable arguments backed by the demonstratives that accompany the presentation.  Thus, the colors and content of the visuals that you choose to represent your themes and case facts are an important factor in the development of your graphic exhibits.

The use of technology and demonstratives in the courtroom is not only an integral part of a litigator’s arsenal of support, but also expected by most jurors.  The modern fact finder expects much from the trial team when they walk into the jury box.  We can attribute this in part to the ability of demonstratives to help the jurors understand the specifics of the case.  This is also due to the ever growing use of technology in today’s television shows and their portrayal of the legal process.  Television shows like Bones, C.S.I., and Law & Order give prospective jurors the impression that the intuitive officer easily solves a case with fancy technology and insightful comments.  On television, viewers watch attorneys recreate the scene with computer images and simulations at trial.  While these shows may depict more of the criminal legal process than the civil side of litigation, the expectation of drama and glamour in the courtroom remains.  Thus, the legal profession faces the challenge of reaching its audience—the fact finders—in a way that will meet their expectations, hold their attention, and speak to the person as an individual.   

Jurors have high expectations.  The use of graphics and technology has evolved such that we need to look for new and innovative ways to reach jurors.  We know that repetition via auditory and visual techniques increases retention and comprehension.  We are both visual and auditory learners.  Studies show that jurors retain more information when they see and hear the evidence.  One particularly well-known study—the Weiss-McGrath report—found "a one-hundred percent increase in juror retention of visual over oral presentations and a six-hundred percent increase in juror retention of combined visual and oral presentations over oral presentations alone."  The report also showed that subjects who only heard information had a seventy percent retention rate after three hours and only a ten percent retention rate after 72 hours.  Likewise, in subjects who only saw information there was a 72 percent retention rate after three hours and a twenty percent retention rate after 72 hours.  However, when you compare these results to the results of the subjects who both saw and  heard the same information, there was an 85 percent retention rate after three hours and a 65 retention rate after 72 hours.

Retention is good.  We want our jurors to remember our argument, and deliberate over our words.  We also want to be able to reach the fact finder on a deeper subconscious level that melds with their understanding and perceptions in a way that persuades them to reach the conclusion we are seeking through our presentation.  Color is an effective avenue for achieving this level of understanding.


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Regardless to whom you are presenting—be it a judge, jury, or an arbitration panel—it is important to have an understanding of the characteristics of a persuasive and meaningful argument.  Consider the audience.  Step into their shoes.  Evaluate how they will perceive you, your case, your theme, and your graphics.  According to Waites, when attempting to reach our audience we should consider their attitudes and life experiences, and how that will affect their outlook on specific issues of the case, personality traits, what their values and belief systems are, and location of the trial: what demographic influences might there be. 

Research shows that messages that are the most persuasive and powerfully compelling are those already “reflected in a juror’s long-term reference memory.”  Effective courtroom persuasion relies on the attorney’s ability to reach the jurors and to activate the juror’s long term memory by association and repetition.  Whether we want them to or not, jurors bring life experiences, personal values, and beliefs into the courtroom.  If the trial attorney is able to associate the new information—or the information they are presenting at trial to information that is stored in the juror’s long term memory and belief system—this will facilitate understanding and the ability to process and store new data.  The modern attorney uses visual aids such as demonstratives and technology in this process.  Jurors will rely on their own life experiences and preexisting beliefs in evaluating evidence.  Thus, themes reflected in demonstratives that invoke or conform to the juror’s value system and long term memory have a better chance of speaking to the jury.  The integration of the right color into these demonstratives can be a valuable means of activating the juror’s long term memory by using color as a form of association to invoke certain feelings towards their argument.

Let us look at this from another perspective: What are the types of things that people retain in their long-term memory?  Typically, people incorporate certain sounds, smells, and colors into their perceptions and memories.  Reminiscences of a certain song on the radio, the smell of fresh baking bread, and even the color of your grandmother’s table cloth can influence how we perceive the world around us.  These recollections shape our long term memory and call to mind certain feelings that influence how we form opinions on new information, or data presented to us.  

Different cultures associate different feelings with color.  Again, color is powerful.  It evokes emotions and influences us at every level.  Thus, attorneys should consider the cultural influence of color when creating demonstratives that the attorneys intend to speak to and influence the jury.  The themes used at trial to tell the story that best tap into jurors beliefs or life experiences are themes that the jurors can relate to and retain.  Where the audience may have preconceived notions about a given topic, the challenge facing counsel is to find a way to persuade the audience to reconcile their longstanding beliefs about the issue at hand.  The use of color to access the audience’s long term reference memory is an invaluable tool in relating to people, appealing to their senses, and in turn persuading them to have a more favorable opinion of your case.  This can ultimately affect the outcome of the trial in your favor.  With trial exhibits, color predominantly reinforces themes and a story that fosters acceptance by the decision maker.  However, there is deeper meaning to our color choices.  Color and perception is such a large part of every culture, that it is imperative for the attorney to understand their audience.  It is undisputed that color can be instrumental in persuading fact finders.  Having a sense of cultural consideration can aid the presenter in making wise and insightful color choices when developing case themes and graphics.  Choosing colors that appeal to a particular group in places where certain socio-cultural groups dominate can give a psychological edge to the presenter in reaching and appealing to their audience.  Color can subtly influence our associations, and the use of color is a helpful aid in generating interest in your story.

Color, Science, and Culture 
Sir Isaac Newton discovered that pure white light separates into all visible colors when it passes through a prism.  In a series of experiments conducted between 1666 and 1672, Newton first recognized the idea of the rainbow, which is comprised of separate components of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, however, realized that perception also shapes the sensations of color reaching our brain.  Although Goethe’s ideas on color were never widely embraced by the scientific community, they did greatly influence the art world.  Artists use color to express emotion a theme or a feeling.  They use color to engage the viewer and draw them into their scene.  

That is what we as attorneys must do.  We need to engage our audience, and draw them into our story.  By using colors that appeal to their psyche and belief system we are able to increase our chances of association and “win” over our audience.

Edward Tufte also recognizes the benefits of using color in an appropriate manner.  He believes there is an art to putting color in the right place.  Tufte outlines the fundamental uses of color in information design: to label, to measure, to represent or imitate reality and to enliven or decorate.  Used at its best, color has overwhelming informational benefits.  It is this aspect of color that we need to use to our advantage.  The question then becomes, what are the informational benefits of color, and what is the best strategic use of color to influence our audience.  We need to be able to use color in a way that gives decisive weight to the information, yet does not negatively affect the cognitive ability of the audience to digest it.  Too much visual stimulation can take away from the data presented.

To effectively engage our audience at this level, we need to look at the different meanings of color, how to use color, and consider cultural and geographical location.  Interpretation and color meaning varies by country and culture; people of various cultures perceive and respond to colors differently.  For example, western cultures generally break down color into temperatures: Cool colors such as blue, purple, and green invoke feelings of calm, sadness, or indifference.  Blue is often seen as trustworthy, dependable and committed.  It affects us mentally by invoking feelings such as a calming, cooling, or sedative effect cooling, and may also aid intuition.  Warm colors are in the red area of the color spectrum: Red, orange, and yellow.  These colors may evoke emotions ranging from warmth and comfort to feelings of anger and hostility.  

On a deeper level, individual colors have different meanings in different parts of the world.  If we explore these cultural interpretations of color, it can help us to identify with our audience and develop effective demonstratives to persuade our audience at a deeper level through association and perception.  
For instance:

White: Symbolizes mourning or death in East Asia, but happiness and purity in Australia, New Zealand and the United States.Blue:  Is the most popular corporate color in the United States, but it represents cold and evil in East Asia.  However, it stands for warmth in the Netherlands, and in contrast coldness in Sweden, death in Iran and purity in India.  Moreover, blue denotes femininity in Belgium and the Netherlands, but masculinity in Sweden in the United States.Green: Represents danger or disease in Malaysia, and envy in Belgium.  But, it stands for love and happiness in Japan, and sincerity, trustworthiness, and dependability in China.Red:  Reflects ambition and desire in India, and love in China, Korea and Japan. It can also mean lucky in China, Denmark and Argentina but unlucky in Nigeria.Yellow: Represents warmth in the United States, but infidelity in France.  It is also associated with jealousy in Russia, but pleasant, happy, and good taste in China.  In contrast, in Brazil, purple and yellow symbolize sorrow and despair.Purple:  In western cultures, purple represents royalty.  However, in eastern cultures like China and South Korea, it represents love.

Trial graphics design must take into account color meaning.

Color and courtroom graphics - where do we go from here?

As the demographics of our country, and therefore our jury pool are changing, it is important that as legal professionals we look beyond the basics of color and into the meaning behind it so we can use color to effectively persuade our audience.   

The unspoken—but generally accepted—rule of courtroom graphics is to use a standard blue background with yellow text.  The conventional wisdom for applying color includes using blue backgrounds, and yellow, gray, or red to highlight, neutralize, or emphasize.  While somewhat successful, the changing demographics of this country and jury pool are an important consideration lost by these conventional schemes.  Accordingly, attorneys may miss the psychological and socio-cultural associations of color in the courtroom.  

Courtroom technology is a proven method for stimulating jurors and aiding in comprehension and retention.  Attorneys generally use color to highlight a theme, emphasize a point, and to catch and hold the attention of the fact finder.  This allows the litigator to hammer their point into the jury in the short time that they have the jury’s undivided attention.  Color becomes important here because studies show that color psychologically affects based on individual character or personality traits.  Other reasons for using color are to: Emphasize key points, highlight important information, group similar items, create a mood, provide continuity, increase reading speed, and learning.  

Color can also tie exhibits together and develop a theme in the case.  Thus, the choice of color is not only important in selecting color combinations that effectively tell your story and highlight important facts on the exhibit or graphic, but color must also appeal to your audience. Therefore, uniform color choice or the conventional blue and yellow color “standards” used in trial exhibits and demonstratives may not always work.  Color must strategically appeal to your audiences’ subconscious. 

Therefore, the central inquiries are whether: (1) color preferences and meaning are learned over time and result from experience; (2) are they inherent in our culture; or (3) is it a combination of both?  

Jurors or fact finders bring their personal beliefs and experiences with them into the courtroom, and use this to interpret and evaluate the facts as presented.  Statistically, jurors will disregard ninety percent of the information received at trial, and focus on the few things that stick out in their mind.   Indeed, fact finders are human and will remember best that information or evidence that coincides with their belief systems and personal experiences.  This elevates the importance of demonstrative exhibits.  Accordingly, attorneys must consider the cultural associations of color choices in exhibits and graphics.  Since color has different meanings in different parts of the world, cultural background plays a significant role in the interpretation of color, and therefore in the ability to win over the judge, jury or panel. 

Different cultures in different parts of the country may have a stronger environmental influence or make up a majority of the population.  For example, a jury in South Florida is likely to have a higher percentage of jurors with a South American or Latin American heritage as opposed to a jury in the Midwest.  The makeup in large states can also vary: a jury pool in northern California is likely to have a higher Asian influence than a jury pool from southern California, which has a predominant Latin influence.   As such, these jurors are likely to respond differently to different colors based on their cultural heritage and beliefs.  An attorney going to trial in these locations should consider what colors will best influence and persuade, or worse abandon their audience.  If we consider the venue when deciding when or how much technology to use, and whether or not to give local counsel first chair because of jury perception, we should also consider these same concepts of the venue and jury pool when creating demonstratives, i.e., the color choices based on cultural and environmental preferences.  

Marketers use the theory of cultural preferences and response to color; why should it be different in the courtroom?  There is a lesson to be learned here for trial lawyers.  Whether you are a marketer using the internet or advertisements to sell your product or a litigator convincing a jury of your side of the facts, the goal is persuasion.  The strategic use of color can be used appeal to your audience and influence.  Our culture, in general, is visually attuned: media imagery plays a significant role in appealing to persons of all cultural backgrounds.  As lawyers we should learn from the success of marketers and television on how people learn and retain information. 


As the demographics of our country change, we too must adapt our approach to presenting our case and the methods of persuasion.  Gone are the days where attorneys hesitate to use technology in the courtroom for fear of being perceived as over-doing it or overbearing. The modern juror expects to see some type of technology in the courtroom.  Indeed, the evolution of presenting in the courtroom has gone through many stages.  There was a time when attorneys would pass around a piece of paper as evidence for the jury to review.  At one point it was considered “high tech” to use a slideshow of photos or an overhead projector to show exhibits, or even a VCR to show a video.  Then, as the digital era dawned, personal computers became common place and portable.  Through this, it has become widely accepted that visual aids and demonstratives help attorneys to tell their story and to facilitate the retention of more information.  Now, attorneys use Power Point presentations, graphics, animations, and databases of exhibits and videos.

The use of courtroom technology was once a novel idea, and it is now not only common, audiences expect it.  The same is true of color.  The “standard” color schemes we once believed would win over any jury are ineffective.  In short, juries have seen it all before, and the modern juror expects more.  They are technologically and culturally sophisticated and look for the “wow” factor.  We must use our knowledge and experience as a platform to move forward.  Effective use of color is different by demographic, region, and jury.  To capture the attention of the modern juror, we need to look beyond the basics of what has worked in the past towards what will influence our new audience now and in the future.  As the demographics and cultural backgrounds of our jury pool changes, we must also adapt by understanding how to appeal to their values, beliefs, and cultural influences.

Marketers are using the idea of cultural considerations and cultural meanings of color in their marketing techniques.  As an industry we should start noticing this concept.  The jury pool is changing both culturally, and generationally.  As we stand in front of the jury box, it is highly likely that the jurors staring back at us are tech, web, and culturally savvy, and are not easily influenced.  We need to find a way to bridge the gap, and connect to our audience.  Color is powerful when communicating with our audience.  Color can increase learning and evoke an emotional response.  The advocate must use the right color for the right audience.

We should rethink past theories for choosing color in a trial presentation.  Is a standard blue background still the best approach or, have shifting cultural demographics and changing value systems surpassed it.  The ultimate goal is appealing to and persuading our audience.  We, as the legal profession must keep pace with our audience and renew our approach to appeal to the modern jury. 

10 Reasons to Prepare Trial Graphics Early

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Tags: Trial Graphics, Trial Consultants, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Courtroom Presentations, Trial Consulting, Articles, Color Theory

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Ken Lopez founded A2L Consulting in 1995. The firm has since worked with litigators from all major law firms on more than 10,000 cases with over $2 trillion cumulatively at stake.  The A2L team is comprised of psychologists, jury consultants, trial consultants, litigation consultants, attorneys and information designers who provide jury consulting, litigation graphics and trial technology.  Ken Lopez can be reached at lopez@A2LC.com.


Tony Klapper joined A2L Consulting after accumulating 20 years of litigation experience while a partner at both Reed Smith and Kirkland & Ellis. Today, he is the Managing Director of Litigation Consulting and General Counsel for A2L Consulting. Tony has significant litigation experience in products liability, toxic tort, employment, financial services, government contract, insurance, and other commercial disputes.  In those matters, he has almost always been the point person for demonstrative evidence and narrative development on his trial teams. Tony can be reached at klapper@a2lc.com.

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Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D., Managing Director, Trial & Jury Consulting, has conducted over 400 mock trials in more than 1,000 litigation engagements over the past 20 years. Dr. Kuslansky's goal is to provide the highest level of personalized client service possible whether one's need involves a mock trial, witness preparation, jury selection or a mock exercise not involving a jury. Dr. Kuslansky can be reached at kuslansky@A2LC.com.

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